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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Top Ten Tips for Running a Ragnar (take two)

It looks like my post last year with tips is the most read post on this blog.  I created that post before my first Ragnar (based on the advice of others).  Now that I successfully managed a team and ran one of the harder legs of the Ragnar Relay New England 2011, I feel I can give some better advice to all of you just starting.

1:  Start training as early as possible- Including multiple runs in 1 day  
You may think running 18 miles over the course of 30 hours sounds like cake..... but I can promise you it is not as easy as you think.  By the time you ran your first two legs, sat in a van for 24 hours, fueled by cliff bars and no sleep... your body hates you and getting out to run 8 more miles up a steady incline is daunting.  My best advice is to practice running three times in one day.  This will give you a preview of what your third leg is going to feel like (Squeeze in a night run!)

2.  Avoid fatty and greasy foods during the race.  
Yes, that seems like common sense... but when its 11pm and   you have 13 miles under your belt, its hard to say no to a greasy cheeseburger and a cold beer.  Lets face it... you earned it.   We chowed on our burgers and chugged our beer, and instead of making a kill list of runners we passed, it was a kill list of port-o-potties  our team had destroyed.  Stick to healthy foods during this event, your van-mates and clean up crew will thank you for it. 

3.  Bring Icy Hot- and Lots of it (and some advil)
One of the scariest moments in the van is when we lost the tube of Icy Hot.  The chemical ice packs you "break" when you need them are expensive, and the old fashioned ones wont last the duration of the race.  For this reason I recommend stocking up on Icy Hot.  It did the trick for our sore muscles sitting in the van while waiting for our next leg.

4.  Be a cheerleader
It doesn't matter what team you are on, what color your shirt is, or what you put on your van.  When you come around a corner and see some one else's van out there cheering and yelling at you at 3 am in Northern Connecticut, you get a second wind.  Get out there and cheer on your team and everyone else's, especially up those hills!

5.  Print a copy of your race route and bring it with you on your run
                   and review it thoroughly prior to race day 
If you have a general idea where you are going, you are less likely to freak out when you run for 3 miles and never see a Ragnar sign.  You will also be aware of some turns that may be tricky.  Believe it or night, the signs are harder to find during the day.  At night they are reflective and also have blinking lights (Thanks Ragnar staff!)  Also- I brought a copy of my map with me that I stuffed in my Ipod arm band.  You may not use it but it is AWESOME to know its there. One of our runners missed a turn and ran 2 miles the wrong way on the course.  If only he had his map!
* Important note- Ragnar only has signs at direction changes or "tricky" spots.  If your run stays on the same road for 3 miles without changing, you may not see a sign for three miles.  Don't Panic and stay on route-  I am sure you will see a decorated van in no time!

6.  Bring what you need to be "comfortable" in a car
This includes non running clothes such as but not limited to:  sweat pants, slippers, clean under garments, deodorant  pillows, blankets, earplugs, tooth brushes, water, snacks, etc. I packed a first aid kit full of advil,  mole-skin, band aids, and other goodies that the vans loved!

7. Accurately pace out your teams
I had everyone report their 5k, 10k pace to me so I could figure out what time we would be at each check point, roughly what time we would run, and when the vans would leap frog.  We all decided to give ourselves a little extra time which hurt us in the end.  We all ran each mile at least a minute faster.  This put us 3 hours ahead of my schedule, and resulted in one of our vans getting to a checkpoint before it was set up.  Because they got to an empty church in the middle of the night, they went on to the next checkpoint, meanwhile our runner was sitting, confused tired and cold at a church- soon to be exchange point.  Try to be as accurate as possible when making your schedule so you get to a checkpoint AFTER its set up-  you will run faster than you think.

8.  Walkie Talkies and 2 way radios- or at least a cellphone list in each van
You may not have service in some places, or phones may be dead.  It is brutal that both vans communicate when they are leapfrogging and switching off on the race course.  To ensure you always have communication, I suggest long distance two way radios.  If you are out of reach, it is always a great idea to have a phone list in each van.  Hopefully 1 of the 6 people in your van will answer their phone.

9.  Clothing
Bring a few sets of running gear- We went overboard and ordered each runner a new clean shirt for each leg-  $800 dollars later most people never changed out of their first shirt.  I would say 2 sets are good, while 3 are ideal if you have the funds.  Another idea I liked was to bring baggies to trap the stinky wet clothes you peeled off- Put the clean clothes in a zip lock, and when you change throw the sweaty clothes into the ziplock bag to keep your van Stink Free!

10.  HILLS hills HiLls
Ragnar always has hills.  We also found that the ranking on the map, i.e. Easy or Very Hard are pretty inaccurate.  Even if you have an Easy run , you may encounter some hills.  Make sure you are getting in your hill workouts plenty of time before the race.  Dont let those inclines burn you out.  


  1. awesome tips. i'm running my first ragnar in july, so excited!!

  2. Congrats on deciding to run your first Ragar! which race is it! We are running the Cape Cod in May and we ran the New England last year- Last year i struggled to find a team of 12 and this year I got 30+ requests- Its an awesome event

  3. I'm running Cape Cod tomorrow! First Ragnar for me. Very excited too! Thanks for the tips!

  4. I'd like to run one of these sometimes. I see Washington DC has one which is about 4 hours away from me. What will be tough is to find a team.

    1. Mark if you go to the Ragnar site there are always people looking for runners (this used to be the case I am sure it still is!) People who need a runner or two can find a runner on the website and you can probably find a team that way

      Such a fun race and turns running into an awesome fun team social event :)


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